Automotive manufacturers will be bringing new models to market at a rapid pace over the next five years as a way to get consumers back into showrooms, according to the fifth annual global automotive industry survey by consultancy KPMG LLP.

Camakers also plan to cater to evolving consumer tastes by outfitting their new models with more useable technology, especially innovations to enhance driver and passenger safety, the survey of the 100 American, Asian and European executives shows.

"In terms of investment, new models are at the top of every manufacturers' list," said KPMG automotive practice national industry director Brian Ambrose. "With the number of new product launches scheduled over the next several years, it's going to be important for automakers to flawlessly bring new vehicles to market with an increased level of quality."

For the North American market, 74% of respondents are predicting that market share growth over the next five years will come from hybrid vehicles—a new category this year—more than any other vehicle. The result is predictable, however: hybrids still are relatively new to the market, and sales are still low compared with other vehicle types.

This year's survey indicated crossover vehicles will continue to increase in market share over the next five years; however, the percentage of respondents expecting crossover growth dropped to 54% in this year's survey from 73% in 2002.

Expectations for SUVs rose slightly, with 43% of respondents seeing growth, compared with 38% last year. Respondents also were more hopeful this year for pick-up truck sales, cited by 40% of respondents - up from 27% a year ago. Minivans appeared to be rebounding as well, finishing with 29% of the votes, up 10 points from last year. Expectations for growth in car sales, cited by 33% of respondents, were about the same as last year.

In terms of global market share, the execs were asked about whether vehicle categories would increase, remain the same of decrease over the next five years, and 73% said that hybrids would increase in share, the highest percentage by far over any category of vehicle. Tied for second were luxury models and cars, at 48%, followed by crossovers at 46%, minivans and SUVs, at 42%, and pick-up trucks, at 41%.

The survey also showed that executives believe consumers want their cars and trucks to be equipped with more useable technology. Safety continued to be a top priority for product innovation for even more respondents this year, with 82% of executives citing it as the most important area over the next five years, compared with 73% last year. Fuel cell technology gained some ground with 62% indicating it would be one of the three most important technologies for the industry, compared with 55% last year.

"The industry can't take anything for granted anymore when it comes to consumer preferences," Ambrose said. "Consumers have become more discriminating and patient, less willing to trust, tough on price, and more interested in fuel efficiency."